★★★★½ - NZ HERALD
- If you're not already in love with Emily Blunt, you will be after this. Divine.
It's taken more than five decades for Mary Poppins to return to the big screen; it's been worth the wait.
For family viewing these holidays, Mary Poppins Returns is a must; thanks largely to Emily Blunt's utterly charming performance. It's a brave actress who takes on this iconic role, and she captures the essence of this unusual nanny perfectly, winning us over the moment her boots float to the ground.
And, she can sing - which is important in a musical.
The remake is very similar to the original in that the themes are the same; embrace your inner child; family and friends are important; optimism is an empowering quality. It also has a similar premise, with Mary Poppins turning up just as the Banks family faces a crisis, and bringing her sunny, slightly wacky disposition to bear on the family.
It's set in 1930s Depression-era London when the Banks kids Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane (Emily Mortimer) are grown up and the house on Cherry Tree Lane is now occupied by Michael, his three kids, and housekeeper Ellen (Julie Walters). After Michael's wife died he forgot to repay a bank loan and now the family face losing their home. Which is the cue for Mary Poppins to turn up and work her magic.
Director Rob Marshall (Chicago) successfully and creatively pushes the limits of visual effects, mixing up hand-drawn animation, CGI and live action.
Just occasionally he tries too hard to appeal to the kids of today - one musical number involving BMX riders doing tricks was a step too far for the period setting - but most of the singing and dancing plays out seamlessly within the story. Blunt also works well with co-star Lin-Manuel Miranda (creator of the musical Hamilton) who is a delight as Cockney lamplighter Jack.
Though the setting and the characters may be a nod to the spirit of the original film; with a new cast, set of songs and adventures, Mary Poppins Returns feels fresh and works as a standalone film. It sure put a smile on my face.